Two New York City chefs head to coastal New England this April and one of them isn’t coming back to the Big Apple.
Chef Mathew Woolf is trading in the cityscape views of Rockefeller Center’s legendary Rainbow Room for a spot by the sea, as he takes over the kitchen at the celebrated White Barn Inn (Room rates from: $500 per night), Auberge Resorts Collection in Kennebunk on Maine’s southern coast.
He’s also invited his friend, chef Ryan Hardy, to head north to showcase dishes from his acclaimed Soho-set, Italian-themed restaurant Charlie Bird for a culinary weekender, April 22 to 24.
“Charlie Bird at White Barn Inn” is part of Auberge Resorts Collection’s “Taste of Auberge” series of chef partnerships and restaurant pop-ups at its properties throughout 2022.
“We will be cooking together,” said Woolf, speaking to The Post just days before starting his new job. “There’s a pasta-making and wine-tasting class; and we’ll do a Manhattan-style Sunday brunch. Me and Ryan have done events together before. It will be nice to have a friendly familiar face,” he added. “It will help me settle in a bit.”
Tickets range from $85 per person for the class, to $165 per person for a five-course tasting dinner.
Woolf’s itinerant career has dragged him between the iconic 19th-century, luxury hotel Claridge’s in his native England to Chicago and then Los Angeles, before ultimately landing at the Rainbow Room. Now, he is eager to bring his cooking to the White Barn’s legendary main dining room and its Little Barn.
“Little Barn is more of a refined rustic style. More relaxed. The main dining room will be the fine dining the White Barn is known for,” he said.
Lined with raw wood and rustic antiques, the dining room is a real two-story barn moved to adjoin the 1800s farmhouse that originally made up the inn, which now also includes garden cottages and nearby riverside cottages.
In total, there are just 26 rooms and suites.
Woolf’s arrival comes at the tail end of a massive, property wide renovation, that switched guest rooms from a classic, elegant design to a more textured rich rustic-chic look of raffia, wood, and wicker furnishings.
A highlight is over-the-top luxe bathrooms with sumptuous soaking tubs you wont want to leave — until the dinner gong!
“This is an amazing property with a prestigious heritage,” agreed Woolf. “I hope to build on this incredible foundation and bring my flair.”
A big part of his flair is fish, he said: “When I started I was on the fish line at Claridge’s. so New England seafood dishes will be a focus here, but I want to work on expressing them in different ways. I love to cook fish. I’ve already started talking to a local kelp farmer, and a mussel farmer. I want to explore a lot more and get creative with it.”
He’ll also be bringing the plant forward ideals he picked up in California.
“In the UK, dishes are based around a protein, whereas in California it was more about produce,” he said. “I like to base my dishes around vegetables that are in season and build out from there.”
The ritzy communities of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport — known for Walker’s Point Estate (the Bush family compound) and familiarly known as the Kennebunks — lie on each side of the Kennebunk River, which meanders into the Atlantic.
It’s an area and lifestyle that Woolf, who hails from a coastal British town in Essex, a county east of London, knows well.
“I’ve vacationed there for several summers and eaten at the restaurant every time,” he recalled. “For me, it’s a home away from home.”
But Woolf will miss his spunky team of friends at the Rainbow Room, he said.
“After eight years, [leaving my team is] the saddest thing about moving. But I feel like I’m going back to my roots.”
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